Rob Gronkowski will head back to Tampa Bay in 2021 as NFL champions the Buccaneers continue to reassemble their Super Bowl-winning team.

Five-time Pro Bowler Gronkowski returned to the NFL last season, a year on from his retirement with the New England Patriots.

The tight end was traded to the Bucs, joining fellow Pats great Tom Brady for a title challenge.

As so often in their time together in New England, the season ended in spectacular fashion for Gronkowski and Brady as they won the Super Bowl in their new home stadium in Tampa.

Gronkowski had been playing on a one-year, $10million contract, though, making him a free agent this offseason.

Monday saw negotiations start between teams and potential signings, and Gronkowski told The Ringer: "You just never know what may happen."

The four-time champion added he wanted "just to see what's out there".

But the 31-year-old did not take long to make his decision as ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Drew Rosenhaus, the player's agent, confirmed his return to the Bucs.

Gronkowski will play under the same terms again, signing for another season for $10m.

The former Patriot started all 16 regular-season games in 2020, although he was targeted only 77 times. He had 45 catches for 623 yards and seven touchdowns.

Gronkowski saved his best display for Super Bowl LV, however, with six receptions for 67 yards and two TDs in the dominant 31-9 win over the Kansas City Chiefs.

Of his 14 postseason scores – all of which have come from Brady passes, a playoff record – five have now come in Super Bowls.

The Bucs will hope to return to the big game next year after bringing back Gronkowski, along with fellow free agent Shaq Barrett, another key performer in the defeat of the Chiefs.

Brady last week extended his contract through 2022, meanwhile, as Tampa put the franchise tag on Chris Godwin.

The Kansas City Chiefs are signing Joe Thuney on a five-year, $80million deal, giving Patrick Mahomes some help on the offensive line.

ESPN's Adam Schefter reported on Monday, the first day of negotiating with free agents, the Chiefs were signing the sixth-year guard.

Thuney spent his first five seasons in the NFL with the New England Patriots, winning two Super Bowls.

The 28-year-old played all 90 regular season and playoff games during his time in New England and became the first player to start three Super Bowls in his first three years in the league.

Thuney has allowed just 1.5 sacks over the past three campaigns, continuing to protect Cam Newton - Tom Brady's replacement - last year when playing on the franchise tag.

That protection will be welcomed in Kansas City, where the Chiefs are attempting to build another challenge after seeing their title defence ended by Brady's Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the big game.

Mahomes has established himself as the NFL's best quarterback but was exposed by the Bucs.

The Kansas City superstar was sacked three times and failed to throw a touchdown as he went 26-for-49 for two interceptions and a 52.3 passer rating.

Shaq Barrett, another of Monday's big free agent signings, returning to Tampa, had 13 pressures against Mahomes.

The New England Patriots have continued their free agency spending spree with the signing of edge rusher Matthew Judon.

According to multiple reports, the Patriots and Judon have agreed to terms on a four-year, $56million deal including $32m in guarantees.

Judon played last season with the Baltimore Ravens on the franchise tag after a 9.5-sack season in 2019.

He played two fewer games in 2020 and his sack tally decreased to six, though he was tied 11th in the NFL with 20 quarterback knockdowns.

New England will look for him to boost a pass rush that ranked tied for 26th in the league with 24 sacks in 2020.

The Patriots also agreed a deal for safety Jalen Mills, who comes across from the Philadelphia Eagles on a four-year $24m deal.

Those signings follow the arrivals of tight end Jonnu Smith and nose tackle Davon Godchaux as the Patriots attempt to significantly improve a roster that went 7-9 following quarterback Tom Brady's departure last offseason.

 

Jason Verrett has re-signed with the San Francisco 49ers on a one-year deal.

The 2015 Pro Bowler and former first-round pick of the Chargers enjoyed a superb comeback season in 2020 after years of struggles with injury.

He finished with seven pass deflections and two interceptions in a year that saw the 49ers defense finish fifth in yards per play allowed, giving up an average of 5.01 despite suffering a plethora of injuries.

Verrett played just once for the 49ers in 2019 before an ankle injury ended his season and, though he reportedly had a multi-year deal on the table from another team, he decided to reward San Francisco for sticking by him.

His deal has a base salary of $5.5million, according to NFL Media's Ian Rapoport.

Verrett and Emmanuel Moseley, who the 49ers re-signed to a two-year deal on Saturday, will be the favourites to be the starting cornerbacks for San Francisco in 2021.

The New England Patriots have made an early move to improve their offense, signing tight end Jonnu Smith to a four-year deal.

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Smith reached agreement with the Patriots on a $50million deal that includes $31.25m in guarantees.

Smith joins the Patriots after helping the Titans to three playoff berths in four years. Tennessee reached the AFC Championship game in the 2019 season, their run that year including a road win in New England.

He caught a touchdown in the Titans' shock Divisional Round win over the Baltimore Ravens during that postseason campaign, but his numbers have generally not matched up to his athletic gifts.

In four seasons with Tennessee, Smith caught 114 passes for 1,302 yards and 16 touchdowns. His 448 receiving yards in 2020 marked a career high.

However, he still represents a significant upgrade for a Patriots team for whom Ryan Izzo was the leading tight end last season with 199 yards receiving.

The Patriots have also used the first day where teams can negotiate with free agency to bolster the defense.

New England came to terms with former Miami Dolphins nose tackle Davon Godchaux on a two-year deal worth $16m, including $9m in guarantees.

A mainstay on the Miami defensive line in 2018 and 2019, Godchaux played only five games last year because of a biceps injury.

Shaq Barrett will return to Tampa Bay on a four-year deal after playing a starring role in the Buccaneers' Super Bowl success.

The Bucs signed the linebacker on an initial one-year contract in free agency in 2019 and he then played on the franchise tag last year.

Barrett's outstanding performances have now earned a long-term agreement, though.

ESPN's Adam Schefter said Drew Rosenhaus, the player's agent, had detailed a four-year deal worth up to $72million, including $36m guaranteed.

Barrett led the NFL in sacks in 2019 with 19.5, far surpassing his previous career-best return of 5.5 in his rookie year with the Denver Broncos.

That was only enough to help Tampa to a 7-9 record, missing out on the playoffs.

But the subsequent arrival of legendary quarterback Tom Brady gave Barrett and his team-mates the platform to enjoy a remarkable 2020 campaign.

They finished the regular season - in which Barrett had 8.0 sacks and 16 QB hits - second in the NFC South and on a roll at 11-5.

A stunning sequence of away playoff wins against the Washington Football Team, Drew Brees' New Orleans Saints and MVP Aaron Rodgers' Green Bay Packers then booked a home Super Bowl meeting with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Barrett had three sacks against Rodgers but stepped up another level to crucially constrain Patrick Mahomes.

The 28-year-old edge rusher had 13 pressures in the big game as Chiefs superstar Mahomes failed to throw a single touchdown, going 26-for-49 for two interceptions and a 52.3 passer rating.

Barrett, who was set to enter free agency, will again be a key man for the Bucs as they look to run it back.

Super Bowl MVP Brady last week signed an extension to keep him with the team through 2022, while they have tagged wide receiver Chris Godwin.

Drew Brees is a "legend" who will be sorely missed after announcing his retirement, fellow New Orleans favourite Zion Williamson said. 

Brees called time on his glittering 20-year NFL career on Sunday, with glowing tributes pouring in for the quarterback. 

And Pelicans star Williamson, fresh from a 135-115 win over the Los Angeles Clippers, praised someone whose welcoming words have stuck with him. 

Williamson was the top pick in the 2019 NBA Draft and received a special message from Brees, who has had a lasting impact on the 20-year-old.

"He's a legend in the game, I think everybody knows that he's a legend," said Williamson, who is 22 years Brees' junior. 

"He gave his heart and soul to the game. I know a lot of people are sad to see him go. 

"Drew told me I think the truest thing anybody has ever told me, my first game in New Orleans – you love your city, they'll love you right back. 

"Whenever new people come and visit, that's the same thing I tell them. That's the kind of influence he's had on me." 

Brees is a 13-time Pro Bowler and was MVP in the Saints' Super Bowl win over the Indianapolis Colts in February 2010. 

The 42-year-old retires as the all-time leader in passing completions (7,142) and passing yards (80,358).

San Francisco 49ers star Kyle Juszczyk has signed a new five-year contract with the NFL franchise.

Juszczyk – a five-time Pro Bowler – will reportedly earn $27million after agreeing a fresh deal in San Francisco.

The 29-year-old, who has established himself as one of the league's best fullbacks, was a free agent but will continue playing for the 49ers.

Juszczyk wrote via Instagram on Sunday: "So incredibly thankful to be a part of this organisation for five more years!

"Thank you Faithful for the continuous support! Looking forward to showing that the juice is always worth the squeeze."

Juszczyk spent his first four seasons with the Baltimore Ravens after being drafted in the fourth round in 2013.

He left the Ravens for the 49ers in 2017, signing a four-year contract worth $21m.

Since moving to San Francisco, Juszczyk has 102 receptions for 1,080 yards and seven touchdowns – in the 2020 season he managed 19 receptions, 202 yards and two touchdowns.

In his career, Juszczyk has tallied 199 receptions for 1,849 yards and 12 TDs.

The Green Bay Packers have re-signed star running back Aaron Jones, his agent confirmed.

Jones' new deal is worth $48million, including a $13m signing bonus, over four years in Green Bay.

The 2020 NFL Pro Bowler was eligible to test the free-agent market after the Packers opted not to franchise tag Jones.

However, Jones – drafted by the Packers in 2017 – decided to remain at Lambeau Field.

"We anticipated bigger offers in free agency, but Aaron wanted to stay with the Packers," agent Drew Rosenhaus told ESPN.

Jones also tweeted a picture, with the caption: "let's run it back" on Sunday.

The 26-year-old ranked fourth for rushing yards (1,104) in the NFL last season, behind Derrick Henry (2,027), Dalvin Cook (1,557) and Jonathan Taylor (1,169).

He was also fourth for rushing yards per game (78.9) as Aaron Rodgers and the Packers reached the NFC Championship Game, beaten by eventual Super Bowl winners the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Jones – a fifth-round pick – made his first Pro Bowl, becoming the lowest-drafted Packers running back since Dorsey Levens in 1997 to do so.

Tom Brady led the tributes to Drew Brees after the New Orleans Saints quarterback announced his retirement from the NFL.

Brady and Brees have spent the past two decades at the summit of American football, but the latter has now called time on his career.

Seven-time Super Bowl champion Brady sits second in the list of all-time passing yards (79,204), trailing only Brees (80,358).

Brady, who this week extended his contract with champions the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, will almost certainly pass that mark in 2021, but Brees' extraordinary achievements over a 20-year career will not be forgotten.

Although his time in the NFL ended with defeat to Brady's Bucs in the 2020 playoffs, the Saints icon's great rival was keen to hail his outstanding achievements.

"Congrats my friend on an incredible career," Brady wrote on Twitter.

"Thank you for the inspiration and dedication on and off the field! Look forward to seeing what's next @drewbrees."

Congratulations followed from around the NFL, including from NFC South rivals Tampa Bay, who accompanied a picture of Brees and Brady with the message: "Congratulations on an incredible career, @drewbrees."

The Atlanta Falcons, another NFC South opponent, were glad to see the back of a great, posting: "We thank you, @drewbrees. But we won't miss you."

Tributes from within the Saints organisation were as heartfelt as anticipated, with Brees having complemented his on-field success – a single Super Bowl ring – with off-field contributions, playing a huge role in the relief effort following Hurricane Katrina.

New Orleans head coach Sean Payton said: "When I was hired by the Saints as head coach in 2006, the very first goal was to establish a functional and winning culture.

"In doing so, it was vital to know what we were looking for in a player; talent, work ethic, make-up, intelligence and leadership are all qualities we found in Drew Brees.

"We also found a player with a burning desire to win. Within a year, he helped lead our team to the club's first NFC Championship appearance.

"Throughout his career, his consistency and dedication to excellence were unparalleled.

"In a very short period of time, he would help lead a region to recovery and a team to a Super Bowl Championship.

"He was a magnificent leader both on and off the field. His attention to detail and competitive spirit were infectious.

"For all of us that have had the chance to coach him, it has been our privilege, we are better for it.

"I am forever grateful for what he has done for our team, our community and for me personally."

Owner Gayle Benson said Brees was "much more valuable than all the records, awards and accolades". Saints president Dennis Lauscha described him as "remarkable in all facets of his career".

"He has developed a lasting legacy not only as a player, but more importantly as a person," said general manager Mickey Loomis.

As expected, Drew Brees has announced his retirement, a decision that puts the full stop on a 20-year story that has seen the quarterback set numerous NFL passing records. 

Pick number 32 in the 2001 draft, Brees started out with the San Diego Chargers but will be best remembered for his time with the New Orleans Saints. 

He sits as the all-time leader with 80,358 passing yards, though should not get too comfortable on top of the pile, considering Tom Brady sits right behind him on the list.  

While Brady is to keep on playing after winning the Super Bowl in his first year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, his fellow forty-something has decided the time is right to move on to a new chapter. 

After 10,551 passing attempts (of which he completed 67.7 per cent), 571 touchdowns throws and 172 wins - plus one Super Bowl ring, of course - Brees bows out an undoubted great of the game. 
 

SAINTS GO MARCHING ON

It could have all been so different, though. Brees suffered a painful end to the 2005 season, injuring his shoulder in Week 17. When it became clear his future would lie away from the Chargers, who had a young Philip Rivers waiting in the wings, there were two possible destinations: Miami or New Orleans.  

The Dolphins, however, had concerns over Brees' recovery. They traded for Daunte Culpepper instead, the first of 15 different quarterbacks they have started since 2006.  

Meanwhile, the one they let get off the hook formed an alliance with head coach Sean Payton, one that turned the Saints from perennial strugglers to persistent winners. 

A franchise that had only made the playoffs five times previously has enjoyed nine postseason trips since 2006, including an unforgettable run in the 2009 season that culminated in winning Super Bowl XLIV in Miami, of all places.  

In the stadium he could well have called home, Brees completed 32 of his 39 attempts for 288 yards and two scores. Those numbers were good enough to see him named MVP as the Saints were crowned champions for the first time in franchise history.


SEVEN IN ONE AND THE HOT STREAKS

Brees' play has been central to the prolonged success for the Saints. He had five seasons with over 5,000 passing yards, a feat no other quarterback has accomplished more than once. Not Brady, not Peyton Manning, not Patrick Mahomes (yet).  

His total of 5,476 yards in 2011 saw him break Dan Marino's longstanding NFL record for a single campaign, though Manning squeezed above him by one solitary yard to take top spot on the all-time list two years later.  

The former Purdue Boilermaker has the record for most seasons with at least 30 touchdown passes per year (10). There were once seven in a single game in 2015, against the New York Giants, a feat only eight players have ever achieved in the league's history. 

However, no signal-caller has had more career games with at least three scores through the air than his total of 97. Same goes for four or more (37). And five (11), too.  

Brees' 54-game stretch with at least one touchdown pass from 2009 to 2012 is also an NFL record, while there were twice nine-game streaks where he posted 300 or more passing yards in each outing.


THE TWILIGHT YEARS, COMING CLOSE TO PERFECTION

From 2006 to 2017, Brees threw for over 4,000 yards in each and every season. While there was a downturn in his output in that category in the closing chapters of his NFL tale, he also became more careful with the ball. 

Indeed, in his final 54 starts there were just 23 interceptions, demonstrating his efficiency as part of a Saints offense that began to lean more heavily on the run game. 

In 2018, a 74.4 per cent completion rate for the campaign raised the bar. The following year, in a 34-7 rout of the Indianapolis Colts, all but one of his 30 passes found a fellow Saint. That 96.7 per cent success on his throws is the best posted in a game for a player with at least 20 attempts. 

While his impact as a passer may have dipped, his importance to the Saints remained high. The 42-year-old did not get to ride off into the sunset as a Super Bowl champion, thanks in part to fellow golden oldie Brady, but he can be absolutely certain that he is destined to end up in the NFL's Hall of Fame.

It is about far more than the numbers with Brees, too, as Saints owner Gayle Benson made clear: "Drew is so much more valuable than all the records, awards and accolades that he amassed through a 15-year career with the New Orleans Saints and 20-year NFL playing career, one of the greatest in our league's history."

Next stop: Canton, Ohio.

For the last 15 years, Drew Brees and the city of New Orleans have been synonymous. 

He helped give an emotional lift to the city following the destruction of Hurricane Katrina, transformed the franchise from a pushover to a perennial contender and delivered the city its only professional championship. 

And now after being a part of New Orleans for a generation of Saints fans, the 42-year-old Brees announced on Instagram on Sunday that he is retiring from football after 20 seasons.

"After 20 years as a player in the NFL and 15 years as a Saint, it is time I retire from the game of football. Each day, I poured my heart and soul into being your quarterback. Until the very end, I exhausted myself to give everything I had to the Saints organisation, my team, and the great city of New Orleans. We shared some amazing moments together, many of which are emblazoned in our hearts and minds and will forever be a part of us. You have moulded me, strengthened me, inspired me, and given me a lifetime of memories. My goal for the last 15 years was striving to give to you everything you had given to me and more," he wrote in his post.

"I am only retiring from playing football, I am not retiring from New Orleans. This is not goodbye, rather a new beginning. Now my real life's work begins!"

The future Hall of Famer leaves the game as the NFL's all-time passing leader with 80,358 yards and ranks second only to Tom Brady in touchdown passes with 571 and second in completion percentage (67.7). 

While Brady followed in the footsteps of Boston legends like Ted Williams, Larry Bird and Bobby Orr, Ben Roethlisberger is held in similar esteem in Pittsburgh with the likes of Terry Bradshaw, Roberto Clemente and Mario Lemieux, and Aaron Rodgers shares the Green Bay spotlight with Brett Favre, Brees is New Orleans' most celebrated professional athlete. 

New Orleans was a one-sport city for the first 35 years of the Saints' existence, and while Archie Manning was the face of the franchise in the 1970s, the team never found success with him at quarterback. 

That changed when Brees came to town. 

Brees joined the Saints in 2006 after not being guaranteed a starting job with the San Diego Chargers – the team that drafted him with the 32nd overall pick of the 2001 NFL Draft – after he suffered a devastating shoulder injury in the 2005 season finale. Despite helping the Chargers capture the 2004 AFC West title while earning his first of 13 Pro Bowl selections, his future with the franchise was uncertain with a shoulder to rehab and a young Philip Rivers waiting in the wings. 

The Saints offered him a starting job, and Brees not only seized that opportunity in rebuilding a struggling franchise, he also took it upon himself to help a proud city rebuild from the destruction of Hurricane Katrina. 

In one of the most intense storms in United States history, Katrina decimated New Orleans when it made landfall in August 2005. A damaged Superdome initially served as a shelter to displaced residents and was in no shape to host NFL games, forcing the Saints to play home games in San Antonio, Baton Rouge and even New York. 

Shortly after arriving in New Orleans, Brees and his wife, Brittany, created the Drew Brees Dream Foundation, raising millions of dollars for rebuilding efforts from Katrina, as well as programmes for children and adults with special needs, and child-care facilities. 

While aiding in the relief efforts of Katrina, his first season in New Orleans coincided with Sean Payton's first as coach, and the two teamed up to create one of the league's most dangerous offenses and galvanize a city that had been battered. 

After the Saints went 3-13 during their nomadic 2005 season, Brees led them to a seven-win improvement and an NFC South Division title, while throwing for a league-leading 4,418 passing yards – his first of seven seasons to lead the NFL in passing yards. Only two other QBs have led the league in passing yards more than once in this span – Brady in 2007 and 2017 and Roethlisberger in 2014 and 2018. 

Brees and the Saints brought joy to a community that had been through so much, but their storybook season ended at the hands of the Chicago Bears in the NFC Championship Game. 

Three seasons later, however, Brees would finally bring a championship to the title-starved city. 

Led by the NFL's number one scoring offense, the Saints were nearly unstoppable, winning their first 13 games while exciting an already excitable city. They marched all the way to the Super Bowl, rallying for a 31-17 win over the Indianapolis Colts on February 7, 2010.  

Brees was named the game's MVP after tying Brady's Super Bowl record with 32 completions while throwing two touchdowns without an interception.  

If winning a title was not enough for a fervent fanbase, Brees further endeared himself to the people of New Orleans when he popped up in a bar packed with Saints fans after the team's Super Bowl parade and taught them the words to the cheer he would lead his teammates through before every game of their championship season. Video of the call-and-response chant between the quarterback and the fans went viral as he worked the crowd into a frenzy with Brees exchanging high-fives and handshakes. 

Less than 10 months after winning the Super Bowl, Brees was honoured as Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year, a culmination of sorts for his play on the field as well as his charitable work off it. 

In the magazine's Sportsman of the Year article, Saints tackle Jon Stinchcomb was quoted as saying, "People come up to Drew and don't say, 'Congratulations.' They say, 'Thank you. Thank you for coming here.'" 

While Brees was never able to lead the Saints back to a championship, the franchise has consistently been one of the NFL's best. 

Since 2006, only three teams have more regular-season wins than the Saints' 150 – the Patriots (181), the Packers (153) and the Steelers (153) – and New Orleans' 49 victories since 2017 are the most in the NFL. 

Despite being a quadragenarian for the past few seasons, there had been little statistical drop-off in Brees' production. He led the league in completion percentage in 2017, 2018 and 2019 before finishing second this past season, and finished in the top two in passer rating in 2017, 2018 and 2019 before a sixth-placed finish in 2020. 

This past season, however, was one of the most trying for Brees. Although he got off to a stellar start to his 20th professional season, he suffered multiple rib fractures and a collapsed right lung in Week 10, putting his future in the NFL into question. Although he missed only four games and played well at times during the final three weeks of the regular season, he had one of the worst performances of his postseason career in New Orleans' 30-20 loss to Brady the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a Divisional Round game on January 17. 

Hours after throwing three interceptions and a playoff career-low 134 yards, Brees was back on the Superdome turf in street clothes with his wife and four children soaking in what would be the end of a long and emotional ride with the Saints.   

Brees achieved sainthood in New Orleans through his inspirational work in the community in helping a city rebuild, along with transforming the city's beloved football team into a winner. 

An iconic image from the Saints' celebration on the field following their Super Bowl win was Brees lifting his one-year-old son Baylen – who was wearing giant noise-cancelling headphones and a Saints jersey with his dad's name and number on the back – high over his head as confetti fell on them.  

Nearly 11 years later, Brees and Baylen shared another poignant father-son moment. 

Following the playoff loss to the Buccaneers, the quarterback dad played catch with his kids on the Superdome turf - a lasting images of Brees before he exited the Superdome leaving behind an unparalleled legacy.

Drew Brees has called time on his remarkable NFL career, announcing his retirement after 20 seasons.

The New Orleans Saints great posted on Instagram on Sunday: "After 20 years as a player in the NFL and 15 years as a Saint, it is time I retire from the game of football.

"Each day, I poured my heart and soul into being your quarterback. Until the very end, I exhausted myself to give everything I had to the Saints organisation, my team, and the great city of New Orleans.

"We shared some amazing moments together, many of which are emblazoned in our hearts and minds and will forever be a part of us.

"You have moulded me, strengthened me, inspired me, and given me a lifetime of memories.

"My goal for the last 15 years was striving to give to you everything you had given to me and more.

"I am only retiring from playing football, I am not retiring from New Orleans. This is not goodbye, rather a new beginning. Now my real life's work begins!"

Brees' retirement comes on the back of a 2020 season that ended with the Saints' Divisional Round playoff loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

His 134-yard performance in that loss marked a meek conclusion for a quarterback who is a certainty to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame after a record-breaking two decades in the league.

Brees threw a touchdown and three interceptions at the Superdome as the Bucs prevailed 30-20, again falling short of a second Super Bowl title.

But Brees will forever be remembered as the quarterback who helped turn the Saints franchise around in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, leading them to glory in Super Bowl XLIV at the end of the 2009 season.

His was also a career in which he defied those who doubted his ability to perform at the highest level following a torn labrum suffered in 2005.

That injury led to his exit from the team that drafted him, the then-San Diego Chargers, while the Miami Dolphins opted against signing Brees over fears his shoulder had not fully healed.

Instead, it was the Saints that pounced, with Brees going on to lead the league in passing yards in seven of his seasons with New Orleans. He led the league in passing touchdowns four times and set the high watermark in passer rating twice and completion percentage six times.

A 13-time Pro Bowler, Brees was MVP in the Saints' Super Bowl triumph over the Indianapolis Colts. He also won Offensive Player of the Year twice in his career.

The 42-year-old retires as the all-time leader in passing completions (7,142) and passing yards (80,142), though Tom Brady will likely surpass him in the latter category next season.

Though he has a host of records in his possession, the drop-off in Brees' play has been obvious in recent seasons, with his display against the Bucs indicative of a player who now lacks the arm strength to elevate those around him.

His exit leaves the Saints with a massive decision to make this offseason, with Taysom Hill the only senior quarterback under contract for next season.

Head coach Sean Payton and the Saints' hierarchy will have to decide whether Hill's four-game audition in 2020 was enough for him to be named the starter or if they will aim to re-sign Jameis Winston or bring in a new face to step into Brees' sizeable shoes.

Drew Brees has called time on his remarkable NFL career, announcing his retirement after 20 seasons.

Rarely has it been more important for teams to spend their money wisely in free agency. 

With the NFL salary cap dropping from $198.2million to $182.5m, those close to the limit will have to be especially prudent with their resources, while teams that have more to spend will have to make sure not to waste it on ineffective players. 

There are still several options for those front offices that are likely to be shopping in the discount aisle. Those whose pockets are more flush must be wary of expensive players that may not live up to their price tag. 

Here we look at some of free agency's best bargains, as well as identifying those players that teams should perhaps be wary of giving a lucrative contract.

Bargains

Justin Houston - Indianapolis Colts

Houston has been productive through stops in Kansas City and Indianapolis and proved he still had plenty in the tank with an eight-sack season for the Colts last year. The 32-year-old is 2.5 sacks away from becoming the 36th player to reach 100. He may be willing to take a one-year deal with a contender at this stage in his career. 

Jaquiski Tartt - San Francisco 49ers

Tartt has had some injury issues in his career. However, when he has been on the field, he has proven himself a versatile and physically imposing safety. In seven games last season, he did not miss a single tackle for the 49ers and, in a deep safety free-agent class, could prove a steal if he can stay healthy. 

Gerald Everett - Los Angeles Rams

Everett was never quite able to carve out a defined role in Los Angeles. Since entering the league in 2017, he ranks 22nd in yards per reception among tight ends. His average of 10.9 yard per catch in that time is only slightly below that of Hunter Henry (11.5) and Jonnu Smith (11.4), with that duo sure to command a higher price on the open market.

Mike Hilton - Pittsburgh Steelers

K'Waun Williams of the 49ers might get the most money of any nickel cornerback in free agency, but Hilton could provide as much value at a cheaper cost. He had three interceptions last season and his 32 pass deflections are the second-most by any Steelers player since 2017.

Kenyan Drake - Arizona Cardinals

Still only 27, Drake has been an asset as both a runner and a pass-catcher in his career, with the former Miami Dolphins back having compiled three successive seasons with over 1,000 yards from scrimmage. Investing in running backs can be risky, but Drake should come at a price that represents excellent value for money. 

Buyer Beware

Leonard Floyd - Los Angeles Rams

Floyd took the Dante Fowler route in signing a one-year deal with the Rams and benefiting greatly from playing on the same defensive line as Aaron Donald, posting a career-high 10.5 sacks. Potential suitors should heed the cautionary tale of Fowler, who cashed in after an 11.5-sack 2019 season but recorded just three in his first season with the Atlanta Falcons.

Juju Smith-Schuster - Pittsburgh Steelers

Smith-Schuster looked like one of the best wide receivers in football as recently as 2018, when he racked up 1,426 yards and seven touchdowns. However, since Antonio Brown made his acrimonious exit from Pittsburgh, Smith-Schuster has struggled to produce his best, ranking 98th among wideouts with a yards-per-catch average of 9.9. Teams should be wary of getting caught up in the name value here.

Yannick Ngakoue - Baltimore Ravens

Ngakoue has gradually declined since his 12-sack season with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2017. Traded twice last year, he failed to impress with either the Minnesota Vikings (5 sacks) or the Ravens (3). The limitations to his skill set are such that he would be better landing with a team that can use him as a rotational edge player, rather than as somebody who is expected to lead the pass rush.

Chris Carson - Seattle Seahawks

It's difficult to argue too much with Carson's production, his 4,045 scrimmage yards since 2017 are 14th among all running backs. However, he has yet to play a full 16-game schedule in his career, with durability concerns exacerbated by his extremely physical style of play.

Will Fuller - Houston Texans

Issues staying on the field have defined the career of a player who is one of the most dangerous deep threats in the NFL. Add on a four-game suspension for violating league policy on performance-enhancing substances and Fuller represents a massive gamble for teams looking for receiver help.

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